The Practice of Presence requires patience and a daily commitment to doing the practice. Nearly everyone who begins will have some questions along the way. Below is an explanation of some key terms used in this practice along with some responses to commonly asked questions.
As a biological function, it’s the source of life. As a spiritual function, it’s the source of spiritual life, our connection with God’s energy. Breath is spirit. Assigning an intention to breath takes it from a biological experience to a spiritual one.
The part of our personality that feeds on the emotions and thoughts of the unconscious mind; that is, the thoughts, emotions, memories, desires, and motivations that lie outside of our awareness. In an unconscious state, our ego is insecure and fear-filled.
When we practice presence consistently enough throughout the day—working up to three conscious breaths or more every hour—we become aware of how we feel inside. And then, when we sense ourselves slipping into unconsciousness, we know the way back to reality. Inner conditioning builds our spiritual foundation.
Focusing on the sacred purpose of the practice of presence means connecting with God’s Spirit within us.
An inner joy and knowing that God’s Spirit is here now. When we practice accessing that inner joy and knowing—that is, when we practice presence—we become still, and the negative dialogue that is the cause of our inner fears and conflicts stops taking us over through unhealthy emotions and reactions. In presence we can feel stability and security in this moment. No longer is our body in one place and our mind somewhere else, causing us inner chaos, because we know we are not alone.
The force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy and power.
Originating with our ego’s negative energy, which is in opposition to what is real, the unconscious causes us to live through memory or anticipation and compulsively think or obsess about something that did happen or something that might happen. It is a false reality and at the heart of our anxieties and fears.
The eternal location of God’s Spirit within each of us; we need only access it to experience its power. The existence of our vibrant inner life is permanent—God’s Spirit is always with us—but the prominence of our vibrant inner life in our everyday environment depends on the priority we assign to it and how often we access it and become aware of our connection with God’s spiritual energy within us.
Below are some responses to commonly asked questions about Practicing Presence.
What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness versus the practice of presence?
There are many reasons for mediation. However, presence is grounded in Christian belief and there is one foundational goal – connecting with God’s spiritual energy to change us from the inside. We cannot do anything unless we stop all the inner noise and negativity. It’s not what we do but what is done to us.
How does the practice of the practice of presence deepen our existing prayer practice?
If we want to be honest with ourselves, we have to ask: Why isn’t prayer working as it should? Why isn’t practicing our faith, such as going to church, working as it should? If it were working as it should—meaning that God’s Spirit is guiding us—and his Spirit truly were guiding us, the inner fears, conflicts, and lack of self-esteem we experience would not be as rampant throughout our society. There wouldn’t be so many people feeling hopeless, alone, and isolated. It just would not be the case. It’s not that prayer or practicing our faith has lost its power. It is because most of us are not praying or practicing our faith as we should. When we pray, we have to ask ourselves: “Am I here now?” An example would be, when we say the Our Father. After we finish, we should ask ourselves: “How many thoughts went through my head when I was saying the Our Father?” I think we’d be surprised to find that quite a few thoughts went through our head. So we have to listen to what James says: A person in two minds is like the waves in the ocean being blown back and forth by the wind. The person is unstable. And James said, if we pray to God in two minds, don’t expect anything from God (James 1:6–8). The practice of presence is our foundation that stops the noise and keeps us connected to our vibrant inner life. And the more we practice presence, the more aware we become of how we feel inside. The more aware we become, the easier we can sense negativity arising within us. And we are able to stop it before it takes over. That is the power of the practice of presence. Presence doesn’t take the place of anything; it enhances everything. When we are present to God’s Spirit within us, it restores the power of prayer and the power of practicing our faith—because we are not far from his constant presence within us and all around us. He is teaching us through the undeniable peace flowing through us when we are still inside.
What happens if I can’t get still in three or five or seven breaths. . . or even one hour of breathing?
If that is the case, the first thing we have to look at is if we’re breathing properly. Are we taking in the air, filling our lungs until we cannot fit any more air in? What happens when we don’t do that is that we tend to breathe and think at the same time. When we do the breathing correctly and follow our breath and say the sacred word, it makes it much easier to focus on our breath, which leads us to stillness.
What if I lose confidence in the practice?
Usually we lose confidence in the practice if we haven’t done it consistently. And if we haven’t done it consistently, we haven’t inner-conditioned ourselves. So the first thing our ego says is, “This doesn’t work for me. There’s no sense doing it. It just isn’t working.” That’s the negative part. The positive part is this: When we actually go back and do it correctly and consistently, all of a sudden we get a breakthrough, where it’s not only like it was before, but better. Then we have reached a different level of confidence in presence. And we have to go back and ask ourselves: “If I say it doesn’t work, what am I going to go back to—creating more inner chaos?”
Are there particular challenges to practicing presence in public places, such as the grocery store or on the bus?
There aren’t any challenges. And surprisingly, in those situations—on a bus, in a grocery store, in a car—it’s almost easier to bring in stillness. In those situations, at times I’ve taken a couple of breaths but wind up breathing for fifteen minutes straight because I feel so different inside, so much calmness and peace.
Are there particular challenges to practicing presence in private?
The only challenge with practicing in private is to have the right intention and to do the practice properly. What we find is that if we are bored or distracted by something and then we practice presence correctly, suddenly we feel that sense of calm and peace within ourselves—that also is another breakthrough. What we thought was not going to happen actually happened, and we start to realize we didn’t do it. It was done to us as we became still. That is the power of the present moment.
How do I explain the practice of presence to my family?
What I have done with my family and other families is this: If there is one thing we all can agree on, it is that when we are emotionally upset, when we may have resentments toward another person, when for no reason our mind just starts exploding with thoughts one after the other nonstop, when our self-esteem is diminished, it is always because of the inner negative dialogue inside of each of us, and none of us can say it doesn’t happen to me. It happens to all of us. We also think we simply cannot stop all the inner chaos. The practice of presence does what we thought was impossible. When we are in emotional turmoil, practicing presence stops the inner fears and conflicts we create when we are outside the present moment, allowing our ego mind to guide us instead of our inner intelligence—which is God’s Spirit within us in this moment and the only reality there is. It stops the chain of compulsive, repetitive, involuntary negative thinking, which is always followed by a chain of negative emotions and reactions.
How do I explain the practice of presence to my spiritual advisor?
What I would say to a spiritual advisor or a priest is that there are thousands of scripture readings that are powerful and full of wisdom. But for me there are three that sort out our relationship with God and how much he loves us. The first is Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” In the second, Jesus says in John, they all shall be taught by God (John 6:45). The third is when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is and he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, Love others as much as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37–40 CEV). And then he says I think the most important thing: All the law and prophets depend on these two commandments. How can we accomplish these things without stillness, without the experience of God’s presence within us? First, how can we possibly become still? Second, how are we really going to believe that God is personally our teacher? And third, those two commandments are all love, love, love. But it’s hard for us to love everybody. It’s almost impossible unless there is a change in consciousness, unless we experience something that is beyond us. It isn’t knowledge; it isn’t an answer: It is an action. That’s what presence is to me.
How do I ensure my intentions are on target for my practice?
We don’t have to worry about a lot of intentions. There is one core intention—to connect with our vibrant inner we take care of the inside first, by connecting to Spirit, the outside takes care of itself. Any other intention is secondary to that. When we are truly consciously present, the outcome doesn’t matter. Love has broken through. God is love.
If I am angry at God, can I still practice presence?
I’ve never actually had that experience, so it’s hard to give an answer. But I do know this: We can’t be angry and practice presence, because we’ve already put the screen of our ego between us and God. To practice presence as God wants us to, there has to be humility on our part. If someone came to me and said, “I’m angry at God, but I want to practice presence,” I would tell them, “Do the practice correctly but your sacred word or words should be ‘Father, please stop this anger. It is devouring me from the inside.’ And I would just keep doing it until I can hear what he wants to teach me.”
I’m so busy I forget to practice presence by taking three conscious breaths. How can I stop that?
When you realize that you forgot to practice presence, to consciously breathe, that’s a good thing. When we realize that we’ve forgotten, we need to immediately take three conscious breaths, three times, or longer, until we feel that sense of our vibrant inner life, that calm within ourselves, as we slow down the inner negative dialogue. As we practice consistently, we are conditioning ourselves. And what keeps us coming back is that sense of inner calm and inner freedom. There is never a time during the day when we can’t take at least three conscious breaths life, God’s Spirit within us, our inner intelligence. When “with the intention of connecting with our vibrant inner life. It doesn’t interfere with anything, and it enhances every single thing.”
Does this mean we have to breathe like this every day, forever, three times every hour or more? That’s hard.
Actually it is not hard at all. It’s our resistance that makes it seem hard. It’s our ego trying to escape the present moment because it cannot guide us in the present moment. I’ve been practicing presence for over fifteen years, and breathing many times throughout the day is one of the greatest joys in my life because I don’t just breathe when I am becoming emotionally upset about something. I breathe throughout the day when I feel good because it enhances my life and makes me feel even better. It increases the quality of everything I do. I feel connected. If we make the practice into a chore, then we miss the true power of presence. Every time we practice presence with the right intention, it’s a renewal. It’s a new beginning: the access to God’s Spirit always that God has given us as a gift. It is a power we cannot connect to when we are in our unobserved mind, unconscious. What is really hard is dealing with the inner chaos we cause ourselves when our ego mind is just exploding with negative thoughts and emotions.
I’m a high-energy person. Will stillness be boring?
Actually, stillness is the opposite of boring. Practicing presence intensifies our energy. The energy has more depth because it is not ego-driven but Spirit-driven, which makes it much more personal. And just like for all high-energy people, myself included, there comes a time during the day when we simply get fatigued—physically or some inner conflict saps our energy. That does not happen in stillness. If a conflict comes, we know exactly how to face it, and we have the confidence to face it, because we know its origin. We made a problem personal, and we became the problem. As far as physical fatigue goes, we can be exhausted, but our inner vibrant life never loses its energy. We only connect with that power through stillness.
What do I do with my anger and resentments toward certain people?
The first thing we have to do is to bring in stillness to get a true perspective of reality. Resentments actually cause us inner pain. By bringing in stillness we stop that inner negativity and realize that God forgives us. And if God forgives us, we have to forgive ourselves and everyone else. Usually the people we resent aren’t hurt by us. We ourselves are the ones who suffer from the resentments. If we have resentments or anger toward any person, we cannot be present at the same time because resentment and anger do not exist in the present moment; they are tied into the past. To accept the peace of the present moment, we have to let go of any resentments and any negative feelings toward every person. Unless we forgive as we have been forgiven, we will not be able to connect with our vibrant inner life. God’s Spirit within us—that is what connects us to everyone.
When I feel emotionally upset and my mind is running, I think of the good things in my life, what’s positive is my life, and that helps. Is that what you mean by presence?
No, that is not what I mean by presence. When we try to think positively about things in our life, it does give us some relief. But after a short time, all those negative emotions and reactions return. Presence is the cure because we’re getting to the cause of all the self-created inner turmoil going on inside of us. By connecting with our vibrant inner life, God’s Spirit within us, we realize we have an alternative, a contrast to our suffering, and we always have access to the peace that is in the present moment. When we experience God’s peace, all those problems that we thought we had are just not that important compared to what we are experiencing.
What do you mean by the courage and the confidence to stop compulsively negative thinking?
As we begin to practice presence throughout the day, at times we’re going to feel almost as though if we become present, we’re going to miss something. But as we grow in the power of the present moment, we realize that the only thing we’re going to miss is the misery we cause ourselves. We realize through our own experience, once our thoughts become compulsive and repetitive, they become useless and stress-producing. As we stop the inner negative dialogue through the practice of presence, we realize how powerful it is, and our confidence expands and expands.
“The practice teaches us”—what does that mean?
The practice of presence teaches us because it gives us a different perspective of reality. It shows us real life now, absent the inner chaos we sometimes create. By reacting to our life situation instead of living our life without the screen of our ego blocking our reality, we are free inside.
Why should I try it? Meditation just doesn’t work for me, and the practice of presence is a form of meditation.
If we say that, aren’t we just condemning ourselves to compulsive, repetitive, and involuntary negative thinking throughout the day? As Eckhart Tolle rightfully says, it’s a terrible affliction not to be able to stop our mind from thinking. Usually we say that, not because we cannot meditate, but just because we have so much resistance to actually being still inside. That reminds me of something Richard Rohr said: Most people don’t meditate because they don’t want to be alone with someone they don’t like. All of that changes with the consistent practice of presence. If we can be still for one minute, which we all have been, that means we can be still for one hour. And if we can be still for one hour, we can be still for one day. And just repeat that day for the rest of your life. God will take care of the rest.
What is the difference between meditation and the practice of presence?
Meditation means different things to different people. And there are many different forms of meditation. When we meditate, our intentions might be to have a better relationship with God, to calm ourselves down inside, to stop our mind from running, or stop our inner fears and also to feel better about ourselves. And there are many more reasons. It seems for most people, there may be many reasons why they’re meditating, but just in talking to people who meditate, it seems that in too many cases they really don’t know what they are looking for. Their intentions are good, but because they really don’t know what they’re seeking, many of them stop meditating because they’re really not experiencing a recognizable change in their life. There is no inner calm or experience of presence at some level. The practice of presence is very specific. There is only one intention, there is only thing that matters, and that is to connect with our vibrant inner life, God’s Spirit within us. That allows us to experience how we feel inside when we are still. And that is who we truly are. Without the distractions we cause in our unobserved mind, this is the experience that lets us know exactly what we are looking for: the calm that evolves into peace fills us with love. It’s that experience at some level that lets us know that no matter what is happening in our life situation, it is secondary to what we are experiencing inside. We are not alone. And God told us exactly what we must do to experience his presence: “Be still, and know that I am God.” When we become consciously present, what we are experiencing inside is unmistakable compared to how we feel when we are in our unobserved mind, where all of our inner negative dialogue begins. It is a shift in our awareness caused by the experience and reality of God’s presence in our life. And we keep coming back to the practice of presence because we know there is no greater truth or power or gift as important as his presence. We know exactly what we’re looking for and why. We do not create the inner change; it is being done to us when we are still.
When you say that through the practice of presence, “we know what we are looking for,” how do we know what we are looking for?
The heart of the practice of presence is how unmistakably different we feel inside when we bring in stillness and experience the power and peace of the present moment. We experience a connectedness and a sense of peace at some level. We experience the difference in our inner well-being when we are consciously present compared to when we are unconscious, living through memory or anticipation, creating inner fears and inner conflicts within ourselves. We truly have a choice: to stay in our suffering or to stop our suffering. We will always choose the peace of the present moment.
I take three breaths, and right after my mind starts running—why?
The main reason for a quick return to a running mind is we’re probably not doing the practice consistently enough to inner-condition ourselves. We’re waiting too long in between taking the three breaths. If that happens, just return to taking conscious breaths. It doesn’t matter how many you take—you can’t take too many breaths, and the practice doesn’t interfere with anything. When we are consciously breathing correctly, we’re not going to have any issue with compulsive and repetitive thinking. Consciously breathing keeps us focused and present, and we realize how useless and stress-producing the repetitive thinking is. As we practice presence more consistently, our confidence in it changes. We know how to get back to reality.
How can the practice of presence help me cope with my fear of death?
All fear—whether it’s fear of losing something, fear of being wrong, fear of being hurt, fear of being abandoned, or fear of being diminished—at the core is fear of death. Through the practice of presence, we realize our fears are in the future. That is why they cause us so much pain—they are not real now, and we cannot deal with a mind fiction. Through the practice of presence, we experience a taste of the eternal within ourselves that is God’s Spirit within us, and that never dies. Once we experience the eternal within ourselves, the fear of death starts to diminish until it no longer has power over us.
Should we teach our children the practice of presence?
It is very important to teach the practice of presence to our children so that they can recognize the unconsciousness in our society, the harm it does to so many people, and the needless suffering it causes not only to other people, but also to ourselves. Teaching our children the practice of presence through our own example is a gift we can give them—knowing the cause of unconsciousness and how to connect with the power that stops it, God’s spiritual energy within them. That power will enrich their lives continuously, but it’s very important to remember that we cannot truly teach our children what we have not experienced ourselves.